Monday, July 31, 2006

"Why Me, Lord?"

Come, My Little Angel, by Diane Noble, is a novella about a very faith-full and positive little girl growing up in a large, poor family. She writes a play and plans with her friends to produce it for the whole town (about 500 people). As if that weren’t a big enough endeavor for a 10 year old, she plans to sell tickets to her play to raise money for lumber so that their fathers can build a church for the small town. But her main motive through all of this is to bring back the joy she remembered seeing in her mother when she was younger – before the death of one of her siblings. Her mother had stopped singing and praying – and believing – when her prayers were not answered for her sick infant to live. Through this sad experience, she had not only lost all hope for life, but was determined to 'protect' her children from ever being hurt by teaching them to NOT believe!

This is a conversation between mother, Abigail, and her 10 year old daughter, Daisy. Daisy’s example of not letting go of her faith and dreams had been an example to her mother. But only when circumstances that Daisy couldn’t control, made her plans begin to seem hopeless, did Abigail really see the error of her faithless example. Now she wanted to correct her mistake and bring Daisy out of her depression by teaching her that all was not lost, even though things didn’t go as she had planned and worked for. Abigail continues to speak to her daughter, even though at first Daisy refuses to be comforted:

“And there’s something else I found about dreams and hope.”
Daisy leaned forward, a spark of interest showing in her eyes.
Abigail smiled. “It’s maybe the most important thing of all.”
“What is it?” Daisy finally asked.

“When those impossible dreams finally do come true, the hole in your heart carved by sorrow will cause you to fill with more joy than you can imagine.”

This really struck me when I read it, because it reminded me of something that I, myself, experienced - many years ago, through a situation too personal to share. Perhaps it’s a key to the answer to that age-old question regarding suffering: “Why me, Lord?”

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

“Oh No! My Life is Ruined!”

As a teenager, I once chose to do a paper on Sigmund Freud for a writing assignment. If I had to roll up into one sentence all that I had learned from my research, it was this – that my life was ruined because I had an unhappy family! (Keep in mind that most teens, at some point, think that they have terrible parents and are treated unfairly, anyway.) Unfortunately, as I grew older I was able to add enough things to the list of negative factors in my life, that I became convinced that my experiences had condemned me to be an unhappy and unlovable person. I would fight it with my knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but how could I possibly overturn it, considering my past?

As I matured, I began to understand how my attitude was setting me up to make the choices that would allow my ‘unhappy life’ to continue in that direction. But I also began to notice – through many little things, but especially through one major blessed situation, in particular – how positive things in the present could, indeed, make the past unimportant and of no consequence, in spite of Sigmund Freud’s assertions! I realized how hope and faith in God, though it could never change the past, could ‘lift’ one above the 'condemnation' of past experiences, to a higher level, where the present could be totally independent from what had happened in the past. On those occasions, it was like the past no longer had any power to influence the present - like it no longer mattered!

To add to my understanding, I recently read some novels which seemed to emphasize, through the lives of the characters (who had experienced some pretty negative things) how faith and forgiveness and steadfastness in trusting in the Lord could bring joy in the end, in spite of the ‘beginning’. Yes, it was fiction, but the principles that were illustrated were not! They seemed to trigger thinking on my part, which added to my more recent perspective about how the past might not necessarily have the power to influence the present.

I awoke this morning with this thought, which struck me more clearly than ever before:

THE PAST IS GONE, AND THEREFORE IS TOTALLY UNIMPORTANT, except to the extent that we allow it to influence the present.

This makes sense to me, even when held up against other principles. It explains how God can totally forgive us when we repent, no matter what terrible things we have done in the past, in spite of his warnings to never do those things. He gives us those warnings because he understands how what we do, can influence our future and the direction we take. It also explains why we should forgive ourselves. If we repent and change direction, then that voids that negative consequence of that action, because it no longer affects our present direction!

As further supportive evidence of the truth of this statement, consider this: Think of the worst thing you ever did, or the worst experience you ever had. How does it make you feel? Now think of the best experience you have ever had. How does that make you feel? Can you focus on both thoughts at the same time? Can you see that it’s really not what happened in the past that makes you feel good or bad, but rather, it’s your thoughts of those things? You can even think of that worst experience, and view it from the point of what you learned from it; what positive thing came out of it, and it will change the feeling you get. Modern psychology tends to focus more on these things, rather than accept as it once did, Freud’s earlier, more negative conclusions. Freud made significant contributions to psychological thought, but he was not the end all, be all that I, as a 13 year old girl, had been influenced to think he was!

It is my (more mature) opinion that God is God because he is the “most intelligent of them all” (see Abraham3:19). Man is capable of making great scientific discoveries, but as time goes on, we make more discoveries that slightly alter the perspective of what we’ve already learned. I believe all that God tells us - and tells us to do - is based on eternal truths that, if we studied every aspect of scientific law in the universe, we would eventually come to understand. In the meantime, I’m becoming more and more convinced that just following his commandments, whether or not we understand them – regardless of current scientific opinion – will save us a lot of unhappiness.

Freud was right – the family you grow up in does have a lot of influence on your happiness. But it’s not the determining factor, because forgiveness (of ourselves and of others), repentance, and trust in God, ultimately works with that factor to alter its consequence, according to our faith and obedience – or lack thereof.